Heather H. Pua, Ph.D., M.D.

Assistant Professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
C2121A MCN
1161 21st Avenue South

Lung, miRNA, exRNA (extracellular RNA), extracellular vesicles, allergy, asthma, Th2

Heather earned her B.S. in Biology and her M.D. Ph.D. in Immunology from Duke University, where she identified a role for autophagy in naive T cell survival. She then moved to the West Coast, completing residency in Anatomic Pathology, clinical fellowship in Molecular Genetic Pathology, and post doctoral fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco. During her post doc in the laboratory of Mark Ansel, she studied the role of miRNAs in allergic inflammation in the lung. Clinically at UCSF, she helped to implement whole exome sequencing for the diagnosis of genetic disease in pediatric populations. Heather is thrilled to be back in the Southeast starting her own lab!  When she is not busy having fun doing science, she usually is chasing after her two energetic daughters or exploring her new home of Nashville.

Research Information

In the Pua lab, we investigate the role of non-coding RNAs (especially miRNAs) in regulating immune responses and tissue inflammation. We are particularly interested in inflammatory disease in the lung and have identified two miRNAs that limit allergic lung inflammation in a mouse model of asthma. Ongoing studies in the lab seek to answer the following questions.

  • Which miRNAs are critical for shaping effector cell programs in immune cells, particularly T lymphocytes
  • What is the mechanism by which miRNAs exert their effects? How do we identify critical miRNA:mRNA target interactions?
  • Can miRNA-directed pathway discovery be used to identify novel genes and potential therapeutic targets, particularly in type2 inflammation?
  • What is the role of extracellular RNAs in lung inflammation?  What are the forms and cellular targets of these extracellular RNA species?  What are their functions?

Our long-term goal is to define miRNA controlled regulatory networks in immune responses, determine their impact on pathologic inflammation and leverage our findings for the development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches in inflammatory diseases. We use a broad range of techniques and tools to achieve these goals including classic immunology, molecular biology, cell culture, mouse models, and high-throughput sequencing.

Please email heather.pua@vanderbilt.edu if you are interested in learning more about the field or current opportunities in the lab. We are actively looking for enthusiastic colleagues to join our team!

Publications on PubMed.gov